EU Extends Broadcast Quota Directive Aimed at keeping Hollywood at Bay
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Backing France’s call to continue restrictive quotas on Hollywood imports, the European Union agreed Monday to extend the restrictive system and make enforcement easier.
In a compromise move, the 15 EU culture ministers decided to continue for at least five years the essence of the current Television without Frontiers measure, which limits non-European imports to less than 50 percent of airtime on EU screens.
The ``political agreement″ will become official only after the European Parliament considers it. But officials said the EU legislature was unlikely to affect the ruling.
France had lobbied all year to toughen the quotas, which are reviled by the U.S. industry, while Britain and some other nations wanted to phase out the system as quickly as possible.
Britain said it approved the deal on the condition that in five years time all quotas could be voted out.
``We don’t believe that the right way to do it is quotas. We want drama that attracts audiences,″ said Lord Inglewood, a minister in Britain’s Department of National Heritage, which is responsible for many cultural affairs.
Although Hollywood has no objections to government subsidies for the EU’s embattled movie and television industry, it has always strongly opposed quotas, arguing they kill competition. France said the quotas are necessary to stave off Hollywood’s cultural domination.
A non-binding quota system has been in effect since 1989, calling for at least 51 percent of air time for EU programs, ``where practicable.″ But the system has not been fully enforced and there is no measure of the benefits it may have yielded.
After five years of quotas, the EU’s executive Commission admitted in a report earlier this year that ``the competitiveness of European audiovisual programs has declined tremendously in recent years.″